Long skirts and petticoats swayed in the breeze as winds swirled about the historic downtown Square on Saturday during the first Denton County Heritage Festival.
While a man picking his banjo played bluegrass on the community stage, re-enactors from the 9th Texas Infantry— one of the oldest re-enactment groups in the South — wore period costumes to educate the public about the Civil War era.
This year’s festival, the first of what organizers say will be an annual event, focused on the Civil War and Reconstruction from 1861 to 1877.
Kenneth Grantham, who traveled from Fort Worth, said the re-enactment group includes participants from as far away as Houston and Tulsa, Okla. He said they all tried to dress as something different to educate people about the history of their uniforms.
“There was so much more to the Confederate and Union armies than people know,” he said, decked out in a red-and-blue coat from the 165th Zouave main unit. “Today’s festival was unique in that we could teach both sides.”
Grantham’s choice was a uniform worn by militia firemen from New York City. The unit, he said, was able to wear the same uniform throughout the war because many of them were well-to-do.
The festival attracted dozens of people to the Courthouse on the Square, including one group of friends who enjoy historical and period events.
“We were having brunch at Loco and wondered why a bunch of people on the Square are decked out in costume,” said Katie Breithaupt.
She and her friends Joe Overman and Brandon Nichols said they didn’t know anything about the festival but were glad they stopped by.
“It’s our nerdiness,” Nichols said, about the Civil War-era costumes that lured them in.
Some visitors did know about the new event in town, and even showed up in costume.
Flower Mound residents Bruce and Fay Jarrett not only dressed in costume but brought their 8-year-old German shepherd, Edelweiss.
Bruce Jarrett said they come to Denton often because nearly all the city’s festivals are dog-friendly. He said they won’t attend without their dog, who travels often to Denton to provide therapy to residents.
He said they already had period costumes because he participates in shooting competitions based on periods from the 1860s to World War I.
While only an estimated 80 to 100 people were in attendance at the festival Saturday morning, organizers are looking forward to expanding with each year.
Deborah Boone, co-chairwoman of the festival, said they are planting the seeds for future festivals.
“I thank all the people who volunteered and showed up to join us,” said Boone, who has served on the Denton County Historical Commission since 2003. “What [we] lacked in numbers [we] made up for in enthusiasm.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.